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Revolution imminent in Anglican Communion as parishioners plan to tinker with church constitution

by Church Times

 

 

By Dayo Emmanuel

The three-month controversy surrounding the election of The Rt. Rev’d Humphrey Olumakaiye, Bishop of Osun North East of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion for translation to the See of Lagos to replace The Most Rev Adebola Ademowo who is due for retirement in August has refused to abate.

While the Church of Nigeria claim in a statement signed by Rt. Rev David O C Onuoha that his election followed due process, some members of the Diocese of Lagos represented by Asiwaju Fola Osibo insist that the Bishops were compromised in the election pointing out Bishop Ademowo’s alleged excesses in several press statements.

As it is Asiwaju Osibo and some others in the diocese of Lagos are on a mission to reinvent the constitution of the church to curtail the excesses of the clergy. A few weeks ago, when our reporter encountered Osibo at his Lekki, Lagos residence, he cut the picture of a man with great passion for what he believes in. And he seems to be pursuing it with great vigour and focus.

An Anglican by birth and a member of the Greater Chapter of Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos also a retired industrialist, Osibo is spearheading a campaign for a change in the Constitution of the Anglican Church so as to forestall the age long heritage of the church.

He is not alone in this mission some other members of the church are with him. For several weeks they have been holding meetings and garnering support of the laity of the church to save the church from what they perceive as the overbearing dispositions of the clergy.

The decision to tinker with the church’s constitution is informed by the alleged excesses of the outgoing Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos, The Most Revd. Adebola Ademowo. They are not happy that the retirement of the bishop is costing the diocese well over N200 million to build his retirement home and another N60 million for a befitting car among several other allegations.

Osibo declared, “I am too involved with the Anglican Church and I don’t want the church to be scattered. That is why I and some people in the Church are spearheading a campaign to ensure that certain things are not allowed to continue the way we are currently experiencing. We know the Anglican Church is a church with a great structure. It is a church that has been a huge blessing to Nigeria. But we think it is time we began to look at some of those things we have held tight for years and begin to redress them in the light of current developments.”

While giving a background to what informed the present campaign and the lawsuit to stop the church from installing Bishop Ademowo’s preferred successor, alleging that the process of electing him was faulty and fraught with corruption he said, “In the first place our goal is to create a legacy for our children. The Anglican Church is a great Church as I said, but we are saying we have come to a point where we should change. Things cannot continue the way we used to know and do”

One of the major changes that Osibo thinks would put the church on a sound footing is the need for proper cleric/laity synergy. “The present arrangement where the Cleric is umpire in the matters that will affect the laity is unacceptable. What we have now is that the clerics decide who the bishop is and who the priest is. It is true that people who have been called by God are the ones who go to seminaries for the purpose of fulfilling their call.

“But I think it’s important that when it comes to who is posted to where the laity should have a say. We have the House of Bishops and it is the house of bishops who decides who becomes Bishop. It is the house of Bishops that also decides the posting of Bishops. That too is unacceptable in the light of the current development. If the laity are the ones who pay the salaries of priests and ensures their upkeep, we are convinced that the laity should also be carried along in the choice of who governs their spiritual lives.”

Osibo whose father was the first Diocesan Education General after the colonial masters and in fact laid the foundation of Anglican missions’ schools in Nigeria said “the need for such change is not negotiable because we believe if the laity is given a sense of belonging, they will contribute more to the growth of the church and also ensure that the church is preserved. I am afraid if we continue with what we are doing it will come to a time that people will start leaving the church.”

He observed that many young people left the church some years ago when the church seemed not to be meeting their spiritual needs but since the church has been able to adjust its liturgy to accommodate the new generation some of those who left have retraced their steps back. “It is in the light of this that we are advocating a synergy between the laity and the clergy to the intent that the laity should be allowed to have a say in who becomes their priests.”

When reminded that there are parish counselors in churches that have been elected by the people who in turn ensure that there is accountability in the church, he said, “What we are experiencing goes beyond parish counselors. What we are saying is that the Diocesan board of a diocese for instance should not be a Bishop’s affairs, a situation where those who occupy strategic offices in the board are the nominees of the Bishop should be looked into. In cases where key officers in the board are bishop nominees there will be or maybe some compromises along the way. You cannot vouch for the financial integrity of such arrangement.”

He also noted that the perceived invincibility of the Bishop in the Anglican Church is not acceptable. “In the Yoruba parlance the Bishop is regarded as alase, the man that gives command. That too does not tie with present reality. We need to begin to change that narrative. The Bishop can be called to order not only by the House of Bishops but also by the laity. The idea of also having a Bishop in a place for too many years is not also acceptable with the present reality.”

Osibo explained that the Primate for instance does not stay in office for more than two terms of 10 years and the Archbishops too. “Why is it difficult to bring such practice to bear on Bishops? If somebody becomes a Bishop at the age of 40 and he is posted to a diocese, the implication is that he would be in that diocese for another 30 years because the retirement age is 70. That has grave implication for the diocese. It may make a god out of the bishop and sometimes if the Bishop is not disciplined enough he may regress to some inanities.

“What we are saying is: A bishop should not be allowed to stay more than 10 years in a diocese. There should be a statutory arrangement whereby the Bishop should be transferred to another diocese after 10 years so that he does not become a god in that diocese. Presently, Bishops are only translated if there are vacancies in some other dioceses.”

According to Osibo, the group of 10 which also include Mr. Modupe Alakija, Chief Femi Adeniyi Williams, Chief Layi Bembe, Mr. Laide Sasegbon, Mrs. Dupe Sagoe, Mr. Ade Abisogun, Mr. Bukola Meadows, Ms Molaya Otuyelu and Chief Yomi Finnih are also saying there is need to streamline the income of the church while parallel accounts should not be encouraged. “Even if there is going to be parallel accounts the signatories of those accounts should not compromised. A situation where for instance the wife of a bishop and the wife of the younger brother of the bishop are signatories to some accounts should not be allowed. Such things give room for financial recklessly which we are saying should no longer be allowed.”

He told our reporter that the process of effecting change in the church is ongoing. “We have met with the Primate, The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh and we will continue to meet with him. Our goal is that the tradition of integrity which the church is known for is preserved. We don’t want the church to regress. Many of us were born in the church and we understand that the people are the church. If for instance there are no people in a church, the priest can do nothing. In fact, the priest would be out of job. But if there is a church without the priest the church can still hold because God is where two or three are gathered. We cannot afford to look on while things are going bad.”

A parishioner, Oluwakayode Akinsegun expressed similar sentiment in an open letter to Bishop Ademowo noting that the present system of governing the church is archaic. While describing as immoral the money allegedly drawn from the church’s purse to satisfy Bishop Ademowo on his retirement, he wondered how much it would cost the diocese when his successor will retire in 2040 if installed as the Bishop. He noted in the letter that the Bible is no longer the exclusive reserve of the clergy pointing out that the laity is now more educated, more educated and have unlimited access to the Bible.

Bishop Ademowo a statement has however absorbed himself of any wrong doing pointing out that the benefit that accrued to him at retirement is in sync with what obtains for other of his colleagues who have retired before him. He had cited the example of the Bishop of Diocese of Lagos West, The Rt. Rev Awelewa Adebiyi who retired in 2013 and that of the Bishop of the Mainland Diocese, The Most Rev. Prof Akinde who retired in 2015.

Akinsegun however in his letter to Ademowo noted that something has to be done to review the retirement benefit of clergies.

78 year old Gbenga Alade Smith in an open letter addressed to Bishop Ademowo stated, “Your retirement has become a major source  of concern to all especially with you admitting at least that 260million naira will be spent in building a retirement home and purchase of a vehicle. Others have said it will cost the Diocese half a billion naira in total towards your retirement exercise. Please in the interest of INTEGRITY, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY publish for our education the  document (s) that established this retirement package as well as its application to other retiring priests. It is common knowledge that many retired priests retire into penury and many go around begging for survival from their former parishioners.”

 

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3 comments

Wilson Adekumola June 15, 2018 - 5:25 pm

Always notify me

Reply
Tosin June 15, 2018 - 9:23 pm

Osibo and co should not be part of the people discussing constitutional changes in the Anglican communion. They were part of the rot and helped in destroying the church when the Bishop was in their good books. They should leave the issue of the constitution to unbiased members of the laity.

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Olufolarin Ige Abiodun July 3, 2018 - 3:31 am

Thank God.It is true that judgment will begin from the church…The Bishop has become a politician.Too bad.May God pass through His church with fire and costume all manners of corruption and the perpetrators,in Jesus name.

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